Feel yourself craving a nature-detox? Don't we all. Our 2016 lives are consumed with climbing the career ladder, getting the best grades at school or university, getting a foot on the property market and constantly feeling connected and plugged to technology. Jeez, it's making me stressed just thinking about it.
So instead, take a step away from the rat race and go get yourself a green getaway. Promising nothing but clean air, pure waters and inspiring eco-living solutions, these are the 10 best eco-friendly countries to go exploring...
It’s no surprise Finland tops the list: the locals are super respectful of nature, practically treating it like a friend (which makes complete sense when you think about it). A frankly ridiculous number of lakes, forests and neighbouring islands can be visited but if you only have time for one activity, pack your sneakers and walk along the Kivinokka trail. A local favourite, this path goes along an oasis of nature and makes you feel completely disconnected from whatever’s happening in the hectic outside world. And if you get too comfortable in this public recreational zone it’s all good, just sleep in one of the available summer huts with no electricity – an optimal solution for a deeper connection with the environment.
The unique geology of Iceland PLUS the population’s exemplary love of nature helps to produce clean energy all year long. Just to give you an idea, 100% of the country’s electricity comes from renewable sources and most of the cities have hydrogen buses. If you’re into green living, this is your mecca. Come relax in one of Iceland’s hot AF geothermal lakes (the Blue lagoon is among one of the 25 natural wonders of the world) or invent dramatic death scenarios around one of the many inactive volcanoes. For a full immersion into sustainable living, intern or volunteer in Solheimar, Iceland’s first eco-village that purveys green conscious living. More the party-animal type? Guess what, the Solstice Festival in Reykjavik wants to become the first carbon-neutral festival in the world and is already taking some serious measures to obtain this bad-ass title.
Not only is the Swedish government leading the charge when it comes to tackling environmental issues and taxing high emissions of toxic gases, but the population is also exemplary with its ecological and social responsibilities. Take a look for yourself in the country’s greenest city, Malmö, where you’ll find a whole district living in an 100% renewable energy zone. If you’re more in the mood to get lost in nature, head to Wanås, a unique setting with an organic farm, a medieval castle and a bunch of art installations randomly spread out amongst the trees.
Did you know that 9 Danes out of 10 own a bike and that in Copenhagen there are more bikes than inhabitants? Yes, we know it’s mad, but that’s what makes Denmark THE perfect place to practice your cycling skills AND enjoy breathtaking panoramas as the sweat drops (tip: the Marguerite Route is a real adventure). Head to Copenhagen to experience a cosy modern take on green living where bikes are free to rent, electric buses take you on a tour and local eco-friendly shops burst from everywhere. Empty your wallet at Eco Ego for good bargains on fair trade, organic, recycled or vegan products that respect both the environment and human rights. If your stomach starts rumbling try Amass Restaurant, where crops are grown in the backyard and then served fresher than fresh.
Who knew Slovenia was such a haven for nature lovers? Well, turns out a third of the territory is under national park protection, which doesn’t prevent the rest from looking pretty damn green too. The imposing Soča Valley is what should be on every green traveller’s list when visiting this country. The landscapes are unreal and there’s a river -named Soča, naturally- which should make all water-sport fans and lazy sunbathers equally enthusiastic (expect to see cascades and waterfalls). Make sure to check out (or book a night in) the first self sustainable resort in Europe , “Eco Place”, where facilities are made out of locally grown wood or recycled material and the atmosphere feels extremely peaceful.
Since Spain possesses the world’s biggest solar system to produce renewable energy, it’s no surprise that it appears on the top list. The Northern region is known as the greenest of all, nicknamed “Espana verde”, which promises loads of magical settings for the eco-tourist in you. In this part of the country rests the world renowned camino de santiago, a former pilgrimage route which is now mainly used by tourists who’ve got a good pair of sneakers. Interesting encounters, unique experiences and non-stop breath-taking scenery guaranteed! For the curious minded, head to Matavenero, a small eco-friendly community that lives in the middle of nowhere in order to live hand-in-hand with nature.
In case you were wondering, the South-Western coast of Portugal is THE place for a top-notch selection of beach spots. If you want to mix and match both coastal paradise and sustainable living, look no further: Tipi Valley is your new recreational centre, trust us. Nested in the middle of nature, this place offers everything a green traveller could dream of : an environmentally friendly building to chill in, daily yoga and surf classes for your entertainment, tipis to sleep in with new found friends and an organic restaurant that serves food straight from the garden. If islands are more your vibe, pop by São Miguel, the so-called “Green Island” due to its abundant vegetation.
Estonians are all about healthy living and spending time outdoors. Luckily for them, more than half of their territory is covered with trees and that’s without mentioning the endless coastline that attracts local water-sport entuhsiasts each summer. The trails, known as “bog”, come in their thousands but we would recommend Viru Bog, the greenest trail you’ll ever walk on (see below for proof). If you’re looking for a place to stay among the untouched nature, check out the website of the forest management centre for accommodation that respects the local wildlife. Prefer the cheap alternative? Pitch your tent : it’s 100% free AND legal as long as you pick a public patch of grass to sleep on.
Due to Malta’s consistently perfect weather, hikers are recommended to avoid the hot summer climates when snorkeling and sunbathing are the preferred activities. The Majjistral History and Nature Park is a must if you’re craving a nice nature walk or alternatively climb up the highest peak in Malta, by the Dingli Cliffs, and chill out until the sun sets to snap a few filter-free pics. Walking up hills not so much your thing? I hear you. Maybe you prefer learning more about sustainable living? In that case head over to permaculture malta and get a better idea of the whole deal – visits and courses available.
Loads of French regions are worthy of your nature adoration. On the top list of green havens there’s Brittany, the nearby island of Corsica and the dreamy Provincial zone. Experience the incredible sport of sand yachting in the first spot, go for some canyoning or beach bathing in the paradisiacal Corsica and breathe in the fresh smell of lavender fields in Provence. If you’ve got extra time to spare then why not spend it in one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites : the Mont Saint Michel, aka Cinderella’s castle or every Disney fairytale come to life.